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Blooding by Joseph Wambaugh. Includes biographical information on the author, review of book, message in the story, proven point about the book, critique of authorship, overall impact of the book.
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"The Blooding" by Joseph Wambaugh
One cannot talk about American crime writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, without discussing the contributions of Joseph Wambaugh. A Los Angeles police veteran, Wambaugh has 15 books to his credit, four works of nonfiction and 11 novels, eight being made into feature and television films. His gritty, hyper-realistic style has influenced numerous authors for decades (Dunn 2000). Wambaugh transformed the sub-genre of the police novel into serious literature of a hard boiled nature. His first four books and his work on the 1970's television series Policy Story set the standard of realism, dialogue, and character development for subsequent writers or turned them in new directions (Marling 2001).
Born in 1937 in East Pittsburgh, Wambaugh is the son of a policeman. He joined the Marines at the age of seventeen, and married at eighteen. He received his Associate degree from Chafee College, and then joined the police and rose through the ranks from patrolman to detective sergeant, from 1960-1974. While a policeman, he received his B.A. And M.A. from Cal State University Los Angeles. Wambaugh epitomized the police force, Catholic faith, young marriage, and Marine service (Marling 2001). He then began to write about his work life and colleagues. His first novel The New Centurions, 1971, was an instant success. "Let us dispel forever the notion that Mr. Wambaugh is only a former cop who happens to write books," wrote Evan Hunter in the New York Times Book Review. "This would be tantamount to saying that Jack London was first and foremost a sailor. Mr. Wambaugh is, in fact, a writer of genuine power, style, wit and originality who has chosen to write about police in particular as a means of expressing his views on society in general" (Marling 2001). The novel follows young men through the police academy, the streets of their first assignments, and into the Watts riots of 1968, evolving into hardened and corrupted warriors who feel they have been sent to the trenches to fight a Leviathan. Police Story, an NBC television series changed the portrayal of police, showing them as human beings with neuroses, family problems and character flaws. Rather than basic shoot'em-ups, "the heroic acts they perform are just coping," said Wambaugh (Marling 2001). Later series as Hill Street Blues, Law and Order, NYPD and Homicide owe their form and tone to Wambaugh's pioneering work.
While on extended leave from the police force, Wambaugh researched and wrote the true story of young officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger, who in 1963 pulled over a car and were taken hostage by a pair of small-time criminals who had just robbed a liquor store (Marling 2001). The officers were driven to a remote onion field where Campbell was killed. Hettinger felt so guilty for failing to save Campbell, he ended up having a nervous breakdown, was fired for shoplifting, and ended up farming only a few miles from the fatal onion field. Wambaugh said, "I feel I was put on earth to write this story. Nothing could ever stop me from writing The Onion Field. I felt it was my sole reason for living (Marling 2001). "The Choirboys" is the story of ten cops who meet after hours in L.A.'s MacArthur Park to relieve their stress through drinking, story-telling, and violence. This ritual defends them against the knowledge that the citizens they "protect" are only a shade different than the criminals they arrest. Wambaugh wrote this after his resignation and after reading Joseph Heller's "Catch-22." "Heller enabled me to find my voice," said Wambaugh (Marling 2001). Regarding "The Secrets of Harry Bright" Wambaugh says, "I happen to like that book better than any of the other novels, but that one was so dark, I think I had to lighten up, it was all about fathers and sons and death" (Dunn 2000). His most recent work departs from L.A. And realism. "Finnegan's Week" (1993) and "Floaters" (1997) are set in San Diego and show campiness. Married to his high school sweetheart for over forty years, Wambaugh describes himself as someone who likes to "hang out with his dogs" (Donahue 1996).
"The Blooding" is the account of a real-life murder mystery set in the sleepy English village of Narborough. Wambaugh describes the village as having a church - pub ratio of "two churches, two pubs…..three churches if you count the Catholics who showed up about forty years ago" (Wambaugh 1989). This is clearly an unlikely setting for rape and murder, however that is exactly what happens. In November 1983, Lynda Mann, a typical fifteen-year-old honor student who loves music, make-up and clothes is found raped and strangled to death. The rarity of such an incident brings one hundred and fifty members of the murder squad from the county seat of Leicester. Roughly a year passes. Investigators have followed leads, questioned suspects and traced the tracks that led to Lynda's death. However, no breakthrough can be seen or even predicted. All investigations have led to dead-ends and so the murder squad is disbanded. Life in Narborough resumes to the pre-murder state. Gardens are planted, children play and wives sent their husbands go off to work. It's assumed the murderer must have been a transient, not a local resident (Wambaugh 1989).
Peaceful life continues in Narborough for three years. Then in July 1986, Dawn Ashworth, also fifteen, is found raped and strangled to death only a few feet from the sight of the first murder. A kitchen porter who has been seen leaving the scene is captured and questioned. He confesses and the police are satisfied that they have nabbed the culprit. However, Alec Jeffreys, a Leicester University scientist is not convinced. Jeffreys has been experimenting with a new forensic technique. He believed that the genetic material found in body cells, DNA, could be revolutionary in police investigations (Wambaugh 1989). With the exception of identical twins, no one shares the same DNA. Each individual carries a unique pattern, like fingerprints. Where fingerprints may be avoided in a crime, DNA samples are more frequent and inadvertently left behind by the criminal. An accidental fallen strand of hair, skin cells from under a victim's fingernails present in obvious struggles, semen in the case of sexual assaults are but a few of the numerous samples from which DNA can be extracted and matched to both the victim and the criminal. This method gives a 100% accurate. When Jeffreys compared the DNA samples from the porter's blood with semen found on the bodies, there was no match. The kitchen porter had made a false confession (Wambaugh 1989).
The porter is released from custody and a fresh manhunt begins. The massive 150-man dragnet becomes the largest roundup in British crime history. Authorities collected blood samples of over four thousand possible suspects, hence the title, "The Blooding." A twenty-seven-year-old bakery worker, Colin Pitchfork, was arrested in September 1987, his DNA matched. Pitchfork came under suspicion when police discovered he had paid another man to take his place in the testing. He was convicted and is serving life in prison. This was the first murder case in the world to be solved by the DNA test known as genetic fingerprinting (Wambaugh 1989).
This case using genetic fingerprinting has changed police forensics forever. This science is now used world wide. In 1998, police in Germany collected saliva samples from eighteen thousand men to apprehend the rapist-murderer of an eleven-year-old girl (Seeking 1998). However, this science has proven to be invaluable for not only convictions, but for proof of innocence (Seeking 1998). Ironically, it was Wambaugh's "The Blooding" that…[continue]
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